What does Stephen King think of all those Stephen King movies?
Stephen King has been quoted as saying, “Books and movies are like apples and oranges. They both are fruit, but taste completely different.” And he should know: the prolific author has had no less than 50 of his novels, novellas and short stories adapted into films, miniseries and TV shows over the last four decades. Among those are "The Shining" (celebrating its 35th anniversary this year) and "It," the remake of which just lost director Cary Fukunaga.
So just what did he think of all these adaptations? King famously despised Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," which in a 2009 Writer's Digest interview he claimed was the only adaptation of his work he could "remember hating." But that's just the most well-known example. What, pray tell, were his feelings on "Cujo"? "Firestarter"? "The Shawshank Redemption"? "The Mangler" even? After combing through the internet, I've tracked down King's quoted opinions on more than 20 of his feature-film adaptations, from Brian De Palma's "Carrie" to Frank Darabont's "The Mist." But first, a couple of notes:
1. I limited the list to feature films.
2. If I wasn't able to locate the original source of the quote, I didn't include it in the roundup. Therefore, a number of titles, including "Christine," "Creepshow 2" and "Thinner" had to be dropped. (If I come across reliably-sourced quotes at a later date on any of the films not included here, I'll be sure to add them.)
Are you ready, Constant Reader? Full roundup below.
'Carrie' (1976)Photo Credit: MGM
Based on: "Carrie" (1973)
Director: Brian De Palma
In his 1981 non-fiction book "Danse Macabre": "De Palma's approach to the material was lighter and more deft than my own -- and a good deal more artistic...The book seems clear enough and truthful enough in terms of the characters and their actions, but it lacks the style of De Palma's film. The book attempts to look at the ant farm of high school society dead on; De Palma's examination of this 'High School Confidential' world is more oblique...and more cutting."
In a November 2007 interview with ABC's "Nightline": "'Carrie' is a good movie. It hasn't aged as well as some of the other ones. But it's still pretty good."
'The Shining' (1980)Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Based on: "The Shining" (1977)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
In a May 1983 interview with journalist Martin Anderson: "...my feelings about it are fairly complex; suffice it to say that on the whole my feeling for the film has grown as time has gone by. I think that every viewing rewards a little bit more, which is a sign in any book of film that there’s something more going on than simple film-making, putting the camera here…that somebody was thinking. That’s one of the things that I appreciate. ... From a plotting level, I don’t think the film works very well, and in terms of execution I think some of the choices that he made about where to set his cameras and how to shoot certain scenes were amazingly bad."
In a June 1983 interview with Playboy: "I’d admired Kubrick for a long time and had great expectations for the project, but I was deeply disappointed in the end result. Parts of the film are chilling, charged with a relentlessly claustrophobic terror, but others fall flat. I think there are two basic problems with the movie. First, Kubrick is a very cold man—pragmatic and rational—and he had great difficulty conceiving, even academically, of a supernatural world… a visceral skeptic such as Kubrick just couldn’t grasp the sheer inhuman evil of the Overlook Hotel. So he looked, instead, for evil in the characters, and made the film into a domestic tragedy with only vaguely supernatural overtones. That was the basic flaw: Because he couldn’t believe, he couldn’t make the film believable to others."
In an interview with the Paris Review published in the fall of 2006: "Too cold. No sense of emotional investment in the family whatsoever on his part. I felt that the treatment of Shelley Duvall as Wendy—I mean, talk about insulting to women. She’s basically a scream machine. There’s no sense of her involvement in the family dynamic at all. And Kubrick didn’t seem to have any idea that Jack Nicholson was playing the same motorcycle psycho that he played in all those biker films he did—'Hells Angels on Wheels,' 'The Wild Ride', 'The Rebel Rousers,' and 'Easy Rider.' The guy is crazy. So where is the tragedy if the guy shows up for his job interview and he’s already bonkers? No, I hated what Kubrick did with that."
In an October 2014 interview with Rolling Stone: "Obviously people absolutely love it, and they don't understand why I don't. The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire, and the movie in ice. In the book, there's an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he's crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene. I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I'm thinking to myself the minute he's on the screen, 'Oh, I know this guy. I've seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.' And it's so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag. But that's just me, that's the way I am."
'Cujo' (1983)Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
Based on: "Cujo" (1981)
Director: Lewis Teague
"'Cujo' is a terrific picture. You know, that one often gets overlooked. If I have a resentment, it's that Dee Wallace [Stone] never got nominated for an Academy Award. She did a terrific job as the woman who gets stuck out there with the rabid dog who's menacing them." - November 2007 interview with ABC's "Nightline"
'The Dead Zone' (1983)Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
Based on: "The Dead Zone" (1979)
Director: David Cronenberg
"If there were no element of horror in my books, they'd be the dullest books ever written. Everything in those stories is totally ordinary - Dairy Queens - except you take one element and you take that out of context. Cronenberg did the ordinary, and nobody else who has used my books really has. ...One of the guys who worked on 'Dead Zone', someone I respect very much, told that Dino was the first producer David Cronenberg ever had who forced him to direct. Who forced him to approach the job, not as this gorgeous toy that was made for David Cronenberg, but as a job where he had a responsibility to the producer and to the audience. And that's another reason why 'Dead Zone' was a good picture." - June 1986 interview with American Film magazine
'Children of the Corn' (1984)Photo Credit: 21st Century Fox
Based on: "Children of the Corn" (1977 short story)
Director: Fritz Kiersch
"My feeling for most of these things is like a guy who sends his daughter off to college. You hope she'll do well. You hope that she won't fall in with the wrong people. You hope she won't be raped at a fraternity party, which is really close to what happened to 'Children of the Corn,' in a metaphoric sense." - May 1995 interview in USA Today
"I could do without all of the 'Children of the Corn' sequels. I actually like the original pretty well. I thought they did a pretty good job on that." - Interview with Deadline Hollywood published in 2016 (but conducted "several years" earlier)
'Firestarter' (1984)Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
Based on: "Firestarter" (1980)
Director: Mark L. Lester
"'Firestarter' is one of the worst of the bunch, even though in terms of story it's very close to the original. But it's flavorless; it's like cafeteria mashed potatoes. There are things that happen in terms of special effects in that movie that make no sense to whatsoever. Why this kid's hair blows every time she starts fire is totally beyond my understanding. I never got a satisfactory answer when I saw the rough cut. ...The movie has great actors, with the exception of the lead, David Keith, who I didn't feel was very good - my wife said that he has stupid eyes. The actors were allowed to do pretty much what they wanted to do. Martin Sheen, who is a great actor, with no direction and nobody to him - and I mean there must have been literally no direction - with nobody to pull him in and say, 'Stop what you're doing,' he simply reprised Greg Stillson [in 'The Dead Zone']. That's all there is; it's the same character exactly. But Greg Stillson should not be in charge of The Shop [secret government organization in 'Firestarter']. He's not the kind of guy who gets that job." - June 1986 interview with American Film magazine
'Silver Bullet' (1985)Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
Based on: "Cycle of the Werewolf" (1983 novella)
Director: Daniel Attias
"I like the screenplay a lot, and that's why I've allowed it to be printed here. Is the picture any good? Man, I just can't know. I'm writing without benefit of hindsight and from a deeply subjective point of view. You want that point of view? Okay, I think it's either very good indeed or a complete bust. Past a certain point you just can't tell (and probably my punishment will turn out to be just this: in ten years no one will remember it at all, one way or another)." - From a foreword to a published version of King's "Silver Bullet" screenplay, which was packaged with the original novella (Source: Epinions)
'Maximum Overdrive' (1986)Photo Credit: StudioCanal
Based on: "Trucks" (1973 short story)
Director: Stephen King
"The problem with that film is that I was coked out of my mind all through its production, and I really didn't know what I was doing." - May 2002 interview with Tony Magistrale, published in Magistrale's 2003 book "Hollywood's Stephen King"
'Stand By Me' (1986)Photo Credit: Sony Pictures
Based on: "The Body" (1982 novella)
Director: Rob Reiner
Q: What's the best movie ever made from one of your books?
King: "'Probably Stand by Me.' I thought it was true to the book, and because it had the emotional gradient of the story. It was moving. I think I scared the shit out of Rob Reiner. He showed it to me in the screening room at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I was out there for something else, and he said, 'Can I come over and show you this movie?' And you have to remember that the movie was made on a shoestring. It was supposed to be one of those things that opened in six theaters and then maybe disappeared. And instead it went viral. When the movie was over, I hugged him because I was moved to tears, because it was so autobiographical." - October 2014 interview with Rolling Stone
'The Running Man' (1987)Photo Credit: Sony Pictures
Based on: "The Running Man" (1982; published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman)
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
"[My version of protagonist Ben Richards] is about as far from the Arnold Schwarzenegger character in the movie as you can get." - From an introduction included in the 1999 re-printing of his 1985 novel "The Long Walk"
'Pet Sematary' (1989)Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
Based on: "Pet Sematary" (1983)
Director: Mary Lambert
"I think Dale Midkiff is stiff in places. I think Denise Crosby comes across cold in places. I don't feel that the couple that's at the center of the story has the kind of warmth that would set them off perfectly against the supernatural element that surrounds them. I like that contrast better. I think it does what horror movies are supposed to do. It's an outlaw genre. It's an outlaw picture. A lot of the reviews have suggested very strongly that people are offended by the picture, and that's exactly the effect that the horror movie seeks." - Interview in the February 1991 issue of Cinefantastique magazine
'Graveyard Shift' (1990)Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
Based on: "Graveyard Shift" (1970 short story)
Director: Ralph S. Singleton
"I spent that day knocking out a story called 'Graveyard Shift.' I remember being very happy and very absorbed - having the time of my life, in fact. The story was gruesome, fast and fun. (It later became a film which was gruesome and fast, but unfortunately not much fun." - From his introduction in a 1999 reprinting of "Carrie"
'Misery' (1990)Photo Credit: Sony Pictures
Based on: "Misery" (1987)
Director: Rob Reiner
"Misery" is a great film." - October 2014 interview with Rolling Stone
'Needful Things' (1993)Photo Credit: Sony Pictures
Based on: "Needful Things" (1991)
Directed by: Fraser C. Heston
"The movie was a special case. The first cut was shown on TNT. I have a copy of it, and the length of this film was four hours long. As a four-hour miniseries, it works. When edited down to 'movie length', it is almost indecipherable because it doesn't have time to tell all the stories and do all the setups." - May 2002 interview with Tony Magistrale, published in Magistrale's 2003 book "Hollywood's Stephen King"
'The Shawshank Redemption" (1994)Photo Credit: Sony Pictures
Based on: "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" (1982 novella)
Director: Frank Darabont
"I thought 'Shawshank' was a terrific piece of work, and it is not a one-to-one adaptation. There are a lot of things in the film that are not in my book. The scene where Andy is playing the opera music in the yard is a good example. It's a film about human beings." - May 2002 interview with Tony Magistrale, published in Magistrale's 2003 book "Hollywood's Stephen King"
'The Mangler' (1995)Photo Credit: New Line Cinema
Based on: "The Mangler" (1978 short story)
Director: Tobe Hooper
"Tobe Hooper, who directed it, is something of a genius...'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' proves that beyond doubt. But when genius goes wrong, brother, watch out. The film version of 'The Mangler' is energetic and colorful, but it's also a mess with Robert (Freddy Krueger) Englund stalking through it for reasons which remain unclear to me even now. ... The movie's visuals are surreal and the sets are eye-popping, but somewhere along the way (maybe in the copious amounts of steam generated by the film's mechanical star), the story got lost." - Excerpt from King's 2009 book "Stephen King Goes to the Movies"
'Dolores Claiborne' (1995)Photo Credit: Sony Pictures
Based on: "Dolores Claiborne" (1992)
Director: Taylor Hackford
"Unfortunately, 'Dolores Claiborne' is a film, like Kubrick's 'The Shining,' that is nearly overwhelming because of its beautiful photography, but the story that surrounds the photography is flawed." - May 2002 interview with Tony Magistrale, published in Magistrale's 2003 book "Hollywood's Stephen King":
'The Green Mile' (1999)Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Based on: "The Green Mile" (1996 serial novel)
Director: Frank Darabont
"I would have to say that I was delighted with 'The Green Mile.' The film is a little 'soft' in some ways. I like to joke with Frank that his movie was really the first R-rated Hallmark Hall of Fame production. For a story that is set on death row, it has a really feel-good, praise-the-human condition sentiment to it. I certainly don't have a problem with that because I am a sentimentalist at heart." - May 2002 interview with Tony Magistrale, published in Magistrale's 2003 book "Hollywood's Stephen King":
'Hearts in Atlantis' (2001)Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Based on: "Low Men in Yellow Coats" and "Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling" (1999 novellas, collected under the title "Hearts of Atlantis")
Director: Scott Hicks
"With its elements of precognition, first love, and growing friendship between the child protagonist and the mysterious old man upstairs, it almost cried out to be a movie. Would that it had been a better one, especially in light of Anthony Hopkins's excellent performance as a kind of anti-Hannibal Lecter. But there were shoals, and the film ultimately runs aground on them. The first is the fact that 'Low Men' is only the first part of a loosely constructed novel, which still isn't really done...The second is 'Low Men's' relationship to the 'Dark Tower' books. Although I knew Ted Brautigan's appearance in 'Hearts' would be relatively brief, I also knew he had more work to do in the final volume of the Roland Deschain saga. Without the underlying reason for Ted's fugitive status in the town of Harwich...the movie's motivation first grew thin...and then just disappeared. Many of the individual scenes are great, and I love the spirit of the thing, but the story works better, and in the end it's always about what works." - Excerpt from King's 2009 book "Stephen King Goes to the Movies"
'Dreamcatcher' (2003)Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Based on: "Dreamcatcher" (2001)
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
"And in my case, more of the movies than not — if we except things like 'Return to Salem's Lot,' 'Children of the Corn 4,' 'The Children of the Corn Meet the Leprechaun' or whatever it is — if you do that, then most times you're going to have something that's interesting anyway. That doesn't mean you're going to have the occasional thing that's just a train wreck like 'Dreamcatcher,' because that happens, right?" - November 2007 interview with TIME magazine
'1408' (2007)Photo Credit: Dimension/MGM
Based on: "1408" (1999 short story)
Director: Mikael Håfström
"I imagined a haunting that would literally drive the occupants of room 1408 to insanity by exposing them to the sort of alien sensations and mental input people only experience in fever dreams or while under the influence of LSD or mescaline. The moviemakers 'got' this, and as a result produced a rarity: a horror movie that actually horrifies. I pushed for the PG-13 rating (which the film was eventually awarded), because there's almost no blood or gore. Like one of the great old Val Lewton films, this baby works on your nerves, not your gag reflex." - Excerpt from King's 2009 book "Stephen King Goes to the Movies"
'The Mist' (2007)Photo Credit: MGM/Dimension
Based on: "The Mist" (1980 short story)
Director: Frank Darabont
"I loved 'The Mist' because it's just an all out balls-to-the-wall horror film. And at the same time, it's a horror film that was made by a grown up. You know, Frank Darabont, who cares about people before he cares about the monsters." - November 2007 interview with ABC's "Nightline"